If you take a listen to Akdong Musician’s self-composed audition track for K-pop Star 2, you might wonder what thought process lead to the birth of the song. After all, the track was titled “Don’t Cross Your Legs”.

But their knack for writing witty lyrics and catchy music was what earned them the top spot on the show and a recording deal with YG Entertainment. They went on to release various chart-topping hits about anything from eating instant noodles to etiquette to human movement.

In town for their first concert in Singapore last weekend, the Lee siblings – brother Chan Hyuk, 19, and sister Soo Hyun, 17 – revealed the teen duo revealed that their imaginative lyrics and breezy musical style have their roots in an unconventional youth in Mongolia, where their parents were doing missionary work.

Spending four years there from the age of 10, Soo Hyun says: “We liked going out to explore nature in Mongolia. Just beyond the city, there would be vast grasslands and cloud-filled skies. Those experiences are reflected in our music.”

Sheer boredom from being home- schooled in Mongolia prompted them to start making music together, says Chan Hyuk.

“There was nothing much to do. We hated studying, that’s why we started doing music.”

And now, Akdong Musician, or Akmu, is one of the hottest groups in the K-pop domain.

Songs on the group’s debut album Play (2014) made it to the Top 10 of Billboard Korea’s now defunct K-Pop Hot 100 charts. The light- hearted tune 200% was at No. 1 for two weeks.

This year, they followed up the feat with the EP, Spring Vol. 1 (2016), with all six tracks placing among the Top 10 spots of major Korean music charts such as Naver Music and Olleh Music.

Their catchy songs have also found a following outside of their home country. They held their first overseas showcase in Taipei last month and performed in Singapore last Friday for an audience of 850.

As if unable to believe how two teens with a love of singing could have fans abroad, Chan Hyuk expresses his astonishment during the show at Kallang Theatre.

“Did you happen to find out about us when you were searching around the YG webpage?” he asks at one point in Korean via a translator.

Those watching assured him they were indeed Akmu fans through their actions – singing along to the choruses and bopping to his self-penned hits such as the jazz- infused How People Move and the cheery Is It Ramyun?.

The whimsical songsmith Chan Hyuk tells The Straits Times in a separate interview that his inspiration is drawn from his surroundings.

Explaining how he came up with the lyrics and melody of How People Move, he says: “It just comes naturally to me. I was looking at someone and, suddenly, I started to wonder how our body moves and works.”

His works are brought to life by the pair’s impeccable harmonisation and the combination of his sister’s pitch-perfect vocals with his bright baritone singing and rapping.

The chemistry between the siblings extended beyond their live singing, as they bantered spontaneously with each other onstage. Chan Hyuk talked about how they are not typical idols with visual appeal, drawing protest from Soo Hyun who protested: “Just you!”

Towards the end of the show, he thanked everyone from the band members to backstage staff, refusing to acknowledge his sister.

Not to worry, though, he was merely teasing and there is no bad blood between the siblings.

Soo Hyun says during the interview: “The best part about working together is that we can be ourselves.

“We do not need to put up a front. It is really comfortable.”

Image: Ariffin Jamar / The Straits Times
Text: Gwendolyn Ng / The Straits Times / December 2016
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